Refusing to cooperate with what she called a “politically manipulated” probe, former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook dared prosecutors yesterday to arrest her if they want to look into a graft allegation involving a local businessman.
“Now that the prosecution has the warrant to arrest me, they should immediately exercise it,” Han said in a press conference yesterday. “Even if I am at the prosecution, I will not cooperate with their politically manipulated investigation.”
Late Wednesday, the Seoul Central District Court issued the warrant for the former prime minister’s arrest.
Han, currently a senior adviser to the Democratic Party, served as prime minister in the Roh Moo-hyun administration from April 2006 to March 2007. She was a symbol of integrity during his term, but lately has become the subject of a graft scandal.
Han is suspected of receiving in early 2007 $50,000 from Kwak Young-wook, former CEO of Korea Express, in his bid to become the president of Korea South-East Power Co., an affiliate of the state-run Korea Electric Power Corporation. She has denied the charges and ignored two subpoenas earlier this month.
“Let me say this once again. I am innocent,” Han said yesterday. “I will lay bare the truth at a trial.”
Although the court granted prosecutors the arrest warrant, investigators appeared undecided on whether to use it. Prosecutors sent a third subpoena to Han, asking her to voluntarily come to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office before 9 a.m. today.
“The probe is illegal and politically manipulated, and we see it as illegitimate,” said Yang Jeong-cheol, spokesman of a group of liberal politicians and activists allied to defend Han. “She has never asked to be treated specially because she is a former prime minister. Go ahead and apprehend her. We have respect for the court’s decision.”
While Han will not voluntarily submit to questioning, she will not fight the prosecution’s attempt to arrest her, either, said Lee Hae-chan, another former prime minister in the Roh government.
Liberal politicians and civic group members also said they began yesterday morning a marathon rally at the office of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation. They also agreed that the investigation is more than Han’s personal matter.
“We agreed that this is oppression against the liberals, and we will unite to fight,” said Yang. “We must win the local elections [in June] to crush the administration and turn the situation around.”
About 20 liberal heavyweights, including Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun, former National Assembly speaker Kim Won-ki and religious figures including Father Ham Se-ung gathered for the meeting.
The Democratic Party also formed a group of defense attorneys for Han. The party’s lawmakers with law licenses, including Song Young-gil, Park Joo-sun and Lee Jong-kul, will defend the former prime minister.
While Han dared prosecutors to arrest her, it remains unclear when the prosecution might do so. The warrant, issued Wednesday, expires in seven days.
Instead of exercising it right away, the prosecution chose to send the new subpoena.
Even if prosecutors arrest her for questioning, she is expected to remain silent. Prosecution sources said Han will likely face an indictment next week.
By Ser Myo-ja [firstname.lastname@example.org]